He escaped, and along with his boss, carried a disabled woman down 68 floors to safety.
"When we got out and the building fell, we were caught under some debris," Cerqueira remembers. "You couldn't see or hear anything and you couldn't breathe. At that point, I didn't think I'd see a Thanksgiving. I didn't think I'd see an hour afterwards."
But Cerqueira will be spending Thanksgiving with his family and friends, and this year he is really counting his blessings.
"The things I'm thankful for are still the same," he says. "There's a stronger conviction. You actually realize what it means because you feel like you might have lost that."
"I don't sweat the little things anymore," he says. "I appreciate my parents ... I appreciate having a house to come home to."
And he is being appreciated as well. North Carolina honored Cerqueira for his heroism, and he has been featured on televison and in magazines.
But this holiday, he wants people to remember the vicitms and their families, who have an empty seat at the Thanksgiving table.
"Keep those people in your prayers and think about how lucky we are that we're not in that situation," he advises.
Cerqueira is now home from New York living with his parents in Cary and looking for a new job.